The red carpet juggernaut rolls on in spite of a dismal news cycle, with Quality Street-coloured dresses and glittering hyper-embellished gowns dominating the Critics’ Choice Awards. The BAFTAs, however, were a different story. Among the dopamine looks, from Simone Ashley’s shocking pink Valentino moment to Ariana DeBose’s sunflower-yellow West Side Story tribute, there were quieter fashion statements that reflected the sombre mood permeating society.
A string of stars showed that black does not mean boring. Naomi Campbell brought supermodel glamour to British film’s big night in an inky velvet Burberry gown that made her diamond and emerald Fawaz Gruosi jewellery pop. Bukky Bakray and Ellie Bamber experimented with sheer fabrics and sweet beaded accents in Versace and Chanel respectively, while Jessie Buckley waved the flag for avant-garde silhouettes in directional McQueen.
Bukky Bakray in Versace.
Adwoa Aboah in Saint Laurent and Ellie Bamber in Chanel.
Naomi Campbell in custom Burberry.
But it was Lashana Lynch and her elegantly understated Prada look who scored best-dressed on the night – and the BAFTA too. The 007 actor’s asymmetrical midi-dress with its short, statement train was little black dress perfection: totally individual in its inception and a cut above the rest. “I wanted to pay homage to classic cinema and the women that paved the way for me,” . “Doing it in a moment like this makes me really proud of where I’ve come from and where we’re going.” Among the Black legends she gave a nod to? Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt and Josephine Baker, who Lashana said were with her in spirit.
We’ve seen swathes of black wash over the red carpet before. At the Golden Globes 2018, women wore jet black and pinned Time’s Up badges to their eveningwear to put the issue of Hollywood’s gender inequality front and centre. “Tonight is about women wearing the pants, so I chose to literally wear the pants,” said Allison Brie, who slipped on a pair of cigarette trousers underneath her puff-ball Vassilis Zoulias dress. Even better? The women, including Emma Stone, Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams, who invited activists to walk the red carpet with them.
Jessie Buckley in Alexander McQueen.
Sophie Okonedo in Valentino.
Lashana Lynch in Prada.
By the Oscars that year, fantasy prevailed, with industry leaders, like Ava DuVernay, asserting, “We are not an awards show protest group. It’s really important that you know that Time’s Up is not about the red carpet.” A fair point, even if the slogans printed on attendees’ accessories seemed a little lacklustre after the Golden Globes’ politically motivated display of solidarity.
What will happen at this year’s Academy Awards? There seems to be two fashion camps. Those pining for all-out opulence and using colour as a means of projecting joy, and the stylists making pointed salutes to emerging designers, gender-fluid creativity and Black creatives. A deciding factor is always the brand endorsement deals. “In my dream, the pay for play doesn’t factor in any decisions,” says super stylist, Karla Welch. In an ideal world, Hollywood’s stage would look a little different. Black speaks volumes in the meantime.